Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's Not Always That Difficult

As predicted, now that I'm home in a country where I generally understand what's happening, and there is not a flood of data nor chances to embarrass myself during sessions, blog-worthy events have tailed off.

I'm currently writing out my phonology of the language (ie - what sounds people use to speak). It's very slow going, but satisfying to be finally ironing out some of the quirks that have been troubling me from the outset.

One thing that has been troubling me is the word for meat, which sometimes sounds to me like 'sha' and other times like 'shya'. I was playing them through for the supervisor, explaining how my ear can't cope with making the distinction. It was suggested I just put both of them in the phonology and explain they are in free variation (ie. speakers can use which ever they want and others will still still understand them).

It reminded me that just because an answer is simple doesn't mean it's wrong. Unfortunately, not all my phonological problems are going to plan out so easily.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In The Dark

I'm slowly beginning the process of pulling my massive mess of data into some kind of format that other people can understand... and perhaps I can understand better as well. For the last two days I've been going though session recording, cutting out individual words so I can analyse them using Praat (Pratt is a phonetic analysis program that, while constantly updated, still looks like it's from the late 1990s).

I have to start also pulling together the syntactic rules of of the language (such as, that the order of words is Subject, Object then the Verb - English, by comparison, is Subject, Verb, Object), and relate the whole thing to current theories about such things as typology (what features occur in different languages), Tibeto-Burman linguistics (the family in which my language belongs) and social cognition (the area I'm really interested in - how people use language in a with other people to create ideas about the world they live in).

I'm trying to work as hard as I can - but unlike in Nepal, I have more of a life here, so it can be easier to be distracted (I've certainly not has a 10 hour working day since I got home). I can say that I miss Nepal at the moment though, the enforced power cuts known as 'load shedding' have gone up from 5-6 hours a week when I left to 9 hours every day:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Trip Statistics

As promised, here are some of the more, and less, enlightening statistics from my field trip.

Days away: 104

Days in Nepal on which I did no work: 11

Number of hours of audio data collected: 42 hours, 41 minutes and 52 seconds

Number of K. words currently in my Toolbox lexicon: 694

Number of notebook pages used: 354

Total number of leads used in my favourite pink mechanical pencil: 11.3

Amount over budget: AUD 245.84

One month's rent: 10 000 Rupees

Average exchange rate during my stay: around 65 NRS to 1 AUD

My rent in Nepal as expressed as a percentage of my rent in Australia: 25.74%

Most expensive meal in Nepal (inc. drinks): AUD 23.82

Percentage of weight gain attributable to cheese: 0%

Friday, January 8, 2010

The First Meeting Back

Yesterday was my first meeting with my supervisor since I left on my trip. For the three months I was away she was subjected to emails from me if I had a problem. I was, to say the least, apprehensive about showing my work - I had visions of the conversation ending with 'so that's all that you did in three months' or 'you forgot to check whether it had x/y/z important feature.'

Much to my relief there were no comments along those lines. It was relieving when I was told 'well, it looks like you'll have enough to actually write a thesis.' It kind of scares me that it takes until almost 1/3 of the way through to come to that conclusion.

And no, I haven't forgotten those all important statistics, I'll put them up over the weekend.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I think, in an earlier post, I made passing reference to that dreaded C-word. That distasteful word that makes me cringe every time I hear someone say it. Yes, that's right - it's coming up to confirmation time...

Christian initiation rites aside, confirmation is the 12 month point of a PhD research program, which for me is early March. It involves a variety of horrors. One is that I have to write a 10,000 word paper, which I haven't even started thinking about. Considering I spent 9 months writing a 12,000 word piece for Honours this gives an indication there might be a few sleepless nights over the next month or two. The other thing is that I have to present my research-to-date and future plans in a talk to the entire department.

My plan, at the moment, is to just fill my slides with lots of pretty pictures of the landscape that I took on my field trip. I'm sure this plan can't possibly fail me!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Count On It

It's nice to have been back for the silly seasons but before I wrap things up from the trip and deliver the all important trip statistics I need to fulfill my old year resolution to blog about numbers in Nepali and K.

While I was pleased with my general progress with Nepali during my time away, one thing I totally sucked at was counting, I only managed to reliably count to twelve so that I could tell the time.

To give you a rough idea why it's so hard, here's a website with numbers to thirty:

There is basically no consistent pattern, which means you basically have to learn a hundred separate vocabulary items. I decided to save the lexical space in my brain for more important words - most of them related to food and shopping...

Kagate numbers are also sufficiently fascinating to warrant mentioning here. Like Nepali, they present a small challenge to the learner-speaker because they have not one counting system, but two. One of these systems is base 20.

As an explanation, English counting has a base 10 system, where things work really well in groups of ten, whereas in one of the K. systems things work really well in groups of 20. So, basically, imagine you start counting at 20, and keep going to 29 - instead of 30, it's more like twenty-eleven, twenty-twelve etc. up to twenty-nineteen, and then you get to 40, because it works nicely as two groups of twenty.

And finally, on the topic of numbers, I'll be putting up those all important trip stats in the next few days. Hope you've all had a great holiday season!